By Won Hee Cho, Hugh Surdeau, Dhira Web Khewsubtrakool
Playing Catch Up
Since the company’s inception in February, 2004, Facebook has been a dominant power in the social networking business. Game changing innovations like the Newsfeed propelled the business into success, even managing to break the one billion user mark. However, Facebook’s iron grip on the social media world is slackening. Recently, many users are feeling that Facebook is uninspiring, and many users are converting to other websites. Sites such as Twitter or Snapchat are stealing the spotlight with their radical features. Now, many see Facebook as a tool and a necessity, rather than a website to enjoy. Even some of our own community believes that “Facebook is just not fun anymore. It’s getting pretty old.” This attitude reflects the majority of user’s opinions. Facebook simply does not bring anything new to the table anymore.
Graph Search—Facebook Returns to its Roots
Realizing it must evolve to keep up with the demand of its users, and in order to avoid a doomsday like MySpace, Facebook has developed new tools for users. On January 15th, 2013, the corporation launched their new feature, Graph Search. Combining the Bing search engine and Facebook’s vast wealth of information, Graph Search allows users to browse through their friends in a meaningful way. Using specific parameters, Facebook users can use the application to find friends and businesses near them among other uses. Potentially, this feature could completely revolutionize the social media industry. Using this feature to search and apply for jobs or find interesting things to do could eclipse websites such as LinkedIn and even Google. In addition you can ask specific questions such as: “what friends likes the same book as me,” and it would be able to come up with a legitimate answer that no other search engine can. Although Graph Search is innovative, there is still doubt as to whether it will be enough to push Facebook into the forefront of new developments.
Have you ever wanted to send a message, photo, or video to a friend without them secretly saving it? Snapchat or Poke are for you! Both offer similar functionality, sending friends pictures which are then permanently deleted after a set amount of time. Poke was Facebook’s response to Snapchat, fearing the application’s growing popularity. However, Poke was largely a failure for Facebook, as they added no new features to tempt users of Snapchat away from their current application. This ultimately demonstrated a lack of development from Facebook’s part, as they were unable to design a new system which rivaled Snapchat.
Facebook Purchasing Instagram
On April 12, 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for approximately 736.5 million dollars. This was the second case where one of the top 10 most famous websites purchased an image-sharing venture.
The first being when Yahoo purchased Flickr for 35 million dollars. In just three years after the purchase, Flickr became greater than ever because of the large number of Yahoo users that now had access to it using their current Yahoo accounts. Could this be what we can expect from Facebook? Considering the 5 billion images already uploaded on Instagram combined with the 300 million photos being uploaded everyday on Facebook, the venture seems to have been somewhat successful for Facebook. However, there was much speculation as to the future of Instagram when it changed its terms of service, (under Facebook) allowing the sale of users’ photographs. Initially, it was thought that the application lost a quarter of its users, however this was soon disproved and the terms of service change was revoked. Despite the return to the original terms, the incident still raises questions about Facebook’s management ability and practices.
Failures of Facebook?
Did you know that 15% of teens from ages 13-18 use Snapchat? Snapchat is an application where you can send a photo, video, or message to any friends while limiting the number of seconds they can view it for. After the allotted time runs out, the file is deleted and the other person cannot retrieve it. However, if your friend snapshotted it on their phone, you receive a notification informing you. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Facebook Poke, mentioned earlier in this article, and Snapchat have EXACTLY the same features. Which came first you ask? Snapchat was released in September 2011 while Facebook Poke was released in the early weeks of December 2012. So did Facebook rip-off Snapchat?
Now onto another topic. Was Facebook’s purchase of Instagram the wise choice? Let’s discuss this with numerical figures first. Yahoo purchased Flickr for only (relative to Facebook’s 736.5 million dollars) 35 million dollars and developed it into one of the greatest, if not best, site to share photos. However, with an already great company such as Instagram, home to 90 million users, could they really develop the application anymore? Most of the users on Instagram are already on Facebook therefore, their large user base wouldn't benefit in the application’s growth. I do question Facebook’s future with Instagram.
The Future of Facebook
Facebook is obviously trying to appeal to its users once again but how successful will they be? Facebook will likely still keep growing, as they recently hit their 1 billion users mark, but without a doubt, even without numerical evidence, there is this sense among ourselves that Facebook has lost its “mojo” that it once had. Nowadays in school or on buses, instead of seeing glowing blue notifications, you see Instagram or Twitter. Facebook has somehow become much like water, a commodity that we all use, but don’t often appreciate the fact that its there. It tends to move where the tides send it and along with the winds that persuade and pushes it. It’s only at very few instances that we become excited or interested in something new that they create, but Facebook’s innovations at most time are too few in amounts and to insignificant to notice. For example, it is a fact that Facebook makes at least a hundred minor tweaks to its site per week, but do we see big radical changes? Nothing game changing since time line came almost a year ago. Since Facebook began selling shares, all it had done is try to please its investors with little payment schemes (i.e. Gifts), then there are also those new updates like voice calling through the Messenger app, and Poke, which merely seems like perfect copy cats of what is already out there. If Facebook really wants the flow of the web back in their hands they really need to actually learn to take bigger risk in not only pleasing their investors but also their users. Facebook has the ability to create anything with their teams of genuinely passionate employees, like how they made Poke in 2 weeks, it’s just that the effort only needs to be pointed in the right direction.